According to USA Today, the US government is only now realizing that the only reason the Taliban is able to put up any resistance at all is because they’ve been making from $60-$80 million a year from selling opium (derived from poppy). This has a variety of unpleasant consequences:
– continued instability in Afghanistan
– illegal opiates such as heroin are more easily available (particularly in Europe)
– land that could be used for food is instead producing drugs
On that last note, it wasn’t so long ago that the world was freaking out because of the rising cost of staples such as corn, rice, and wheat. At the time it was blamed on those products, corn in particular, being used for ethanol fuel. What right does the world (as a whole) have to complain about a shortage of food when it isn’t doing all it can to produce food? That means countries like Afghanistan and Colombia whose primary agricultural export is an illegal substance need to get turned around.
Now, as for the current situation in Afghanistan, the USA Today article said that NATO and the US are planing on working harder to regulate drug traffickers… but are doing nothing to stop Afghans from growing opium for fear of making them angry. The logic seems to run like this:
Eliminate profitable crop > anger farmers who must now grow less profitable crops> lose control of country
On the other hand, look at what happens if the plan works.
Drug traffickers eliminated > poppy no longer profitable > farmers have lots of inedible, unsellable poppy on their hands and starve
This is just not terribly well thought out. It seems that what they hope will happen is that their own operations will be inefficient and will only slowly eliminate drug traffickers, making poppy marginally less profitable each year until farmers begin to switch of their own accord.
A much more viable plan would be to 1. make growing poppy illegal and enforce the law. (note: there are medicinal purposes for some opiates, so a few licenses could be given out to produce the very little which is needed for the medical industry) 2. Make seed for other crops easily available.
I’m against subsidies as a rule, but they could be used in Afghanistan much as they are in the US.
Does this solution solve the problems? It would appear to. This would eliminate the Taliban’s income, 90% of illegal opium, and a chunk of world hunger in one swoop.
Now why can’t any government’s see the obvious?
*note: the article I linked to isn’t the same one that I had in print- for some reason that one does not appear to be on the website, but they are similar.
**I never buy my own newspaper, but there are so many lying around on busses, the Metro, and in coffee shops that I never have to.